This morning a crowd of supporters, umbrellas in hand, marched from the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre for Sudbury's sixth annual Defeat Depression Walk, raising more than $20,000 for the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA).
Defeat Depression is a national fundraising and awareness campaign that supports mental health programs across the country through the Mood Disorder Society of Canada, and locally through the beneficiary of that particular community. This year, Sudbury hosted the event in support of NISA, a peer-run, mental health organization where clients receive occupational training, grow self-confidence, and find resources for recovery.
“(The goal of) Defeat Depression is to bring awareness to the fact that there is help in the community if people are struggling,” said Dinah Laprairie, executive director of NISA. “If we come together, we can let people know that it's okay to speak up and seek help, cause there's a lot of us out there who walk the same walk.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association says one in five Canadians of all ages, education, income levels and cultures, struggle with their mental health every year. By age 40, the association estimates that around 50 per cent of the population will have or had struggled with mental illness.
“Depression happens to many, many people,” said Laprairie. “It touches the lives of many families.”
She said this is often what motivates people to participate in the annual event, either in support or in memory of a loved one. Many others participate because they know exercise and being active can improve their mental health, said Laprairie.
To emphasize the importance of physical activity, Defeat Depression invited Michelle Medina Munro to host the race warmup and share how she manages her mental wellness.
This was the first time the owner of the fitness studio, Round Two Fitness, hosted a race warmup -- and the first time she publicly discussed her journey as a "suicide widow". Five years ago, Munro lost her husband to depression, a tragic event she said removed fitness from her life “in a very powerful way.”
Despite struggling with her own mental health over the years, Munro said she exercised regularly before her husband’s passing, which made returning to fitness a big part of feeling like she was getting back to what she described as a “functional life.”
“I think that as we progress through a fitness journey, we can see that as progressing through any sort of challenge,” said Munro. “Being fit in itself is a challenge … but the physical side of it and accomplishing physical things, I find, can really show you how much you can accomplish mentally.”
While the rainy weather did affect attendance, Laprairie said that she would still count it as a successful year, having received more team registrations, participant registrations, online donations, and pledges than any other year.